Harvesting From Oil

An exploration well in Kasemene in Hoima District. Oil activities have created high demand for food products hence providing a source of income for local farmers.Even before oil production starts, Traidlinks helping Hoima farmers to reap cash

Five years ago, Margaret Mary Kasaija quit politics to concentrate on agriculture. The 62-year-old former Resident District Commissioner runs 2Ke Mixed Farm with her husband and son in Kijungu Village, Hoima Municipality.

On June 20, she delivered 6kg of fresh mushrooms to Hoima District Farmers Association (HODFA), which supplies the Tullow Uganda camp in Buliisa District through Supreme Catering.

“I learnt how to make spawn (mushroom seeds) so I spend about Shs 60,000 to grow ten kgs of fresh mushrooms from which I earn about Shs 150,000,” says Kasaija. “Since 2009 when I retired, this is where I get personal satisfaction from.”

Kasaija is among over 200 farmers and farmer groups that Traidlinks Hoima Entreprise Centre and Park, part of the country-wide Traidlinks Uganda, has trained to boost the agriculture supply chain in the region and link farmers to new potential markets. The oil region is particularly important given the high potential it has because of the many people – both local and international – who are converging in the area following the discovery of oil.

Roy Magoba Kizito, the Traidlinks Enter prise Development project manager, says everybody like Kasaija should be looking at oil and gas with ‘commercial lenses’ not as handouts characteristic of most agricultural initiatives. He adds that unlike the National Agricultural Aisory Services (NAADS) that deals with individuals, Traidlinks deals with farmer groups to reach out, mentor and train famers in the region to produce for the local and external markets.

The centre, fully funded by Tullow Uganda Operations Ltd, was opened in 2012 to reduce food importation in its camp by adding value to locally-grown agricultural products to meet international standards.

Apart from Tullow, Traidlinks receives funding from Trade Mark East Africa. Indeed, local farmers are reaping the benefits. “The earnings depend on the individual farmers’ sales and the products they produce and probably the orders for that particular month,” John Bosco Kalule the Traidlinks Agric- Supply Chain Project manager said. However, on average, a typical farmer makes sales of Shs 50,000 to Shs 100,000 per week.

Each farmer earned, on average Shs 7 million last year from selling 5.5 tonnes of the 58 vegetables and certain staple foods depending on the season.

Of the 58 approved foods and vegetables, only 16 – such as red apples, Bogoya, bay leaves, cucumber, fresh lemons, fresh mushrooms, fresh beans, among others are on demand in the wet season while green chili, fresh beans, lettuce, Nakati, Parsley, pumpkin and watermelon are bought in the dry season using stipulated farm gate prices.

David Rubaizira of Kiduma Parish, Kizirafumbi Sub-country, grows oranges and mangoes but only supplies the latter to the Tullow camp.

“This is my second season to supply about 40kg of mangoes to HODFA weekly. I get double the market price because each kg sells at Shs 2,400. But Traidlinks cannot take everything I have 80kg remaining that I have to sell to other business people,” says Rubaizira.

Kasaija says she uses her solar drier to dry the fresh mushrooms that she can’t supply to Tullow, which she then supplies to supermarkets in Kampala because people in Hoima do not appreciate mushrooms as much as those in Kampala.

Selling to Tullow:

Supreme Catering, Tullow Oil’s catering company, issues LPOs on a weekly basis to HODFE, which then breaks down the order to the individual farmers and farmer groups.

Farmers deliver their products at the collection centers for quality assessment and pay off after verification. Then HODFE collects the produce from various accredited collection centres. Each farmer pays functional fees (between Shs 100 -1,000) to HODFE and the collection centres.

The venture has proven beneficial to farmers and they are not complaining. Kasaija has since 2009 ventured into piggery, poultry and horticulture. Her initial capital was Shs 6 million for piggery and the workers’ pay. Currently, her farm has 200 pigs, up from just two in 2009, three batches of 1,200 chicken to supply 1,200 eggs weekly, and is currently growing zucchini.

Rubaizira says Traidlinks has trained him to deal with farm management. He expects that in the next two seasons, he will be able to get more money than he needs to pay school fees for his children.

Kalule says the extension staff of partner organizations, lead farmers and farmers’ groups have also been trained in Global GAP – an international retail standard – and specifically environment, health and safety standards required for supplying to the oil and gas industry.

However, Traidlinks has trained only 200 out of the over 6,000 farmers in HODFA – a clear indication that the skills gap is still wide in the farming community.

Jane Angemo, an accountant at Hoima Development Farmers Enterprise (HODFE), a subsidiary of HODFA, says out of HODFA’s 6,000 members, the association is dealing with 80 -100 only because demand is still low therefore they are distributing orders for farmers within Hoima Municipality only.

She says Supreme Catering places orders for volumes between 1,000 to 2,000 kg every week worth Shs 3 million and Shs 5million to feed the 200 people in the two Tullow camps.

Founded in 1957, Supreme Group, a foreign company, focuses on service provision to military forces and extractive industries. It won the tender early this year after Equator Catering Services, which had a contract to supply Tullow camps in Buliisa and Kaiso-Tonya from 2006 to 2013, lost the deal.

Catering is also another opportunity waiting to be taken by locals, according to Dennis Kamurasi, the vice chairman of Association of Uganda Oil and Gas Service Providers (AUGOS). He says there is only one Ugandan company – MSL Logistics – involved in catering, which means there should be opportunities for more.

Kamurasi complained that most of the food suppliers in Uganda are from South Africa or Kenya, a situation he attributed to the excuse that local companies and farmers had not attained capacity to meet the requisite standards, yet it is only through involvement in the supply chain that Ugandans would benefit directly or indirectly from the sector.

However, some of the farmers told The Independent that the delay in extracting the oil had caused a reduction in demand from camps with less people yet they have much produce on their farms. Others decried the long period of credit – some remain unpaid for periods ranging from 2 – 4 months.

However, Moses Bwenkya, the HODFA coordinator, said there was less activity going on except in the CNOOC camp since September last year when the company got a production license for Kingfisher – hence the reduced activity in the oil region.

The Supreme Group Press Office had told The Independent in an email that it would respond to queries raised by the Hoima farmers and other suppliers on June 21, but it had not done so by press time – almost a month later.

Source : The Independent

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